MoMA Gets All Hot and Humid

Senior Curator Laurence Kardish Previews the Dog Days Film Series

As the mercury rises, New York’s Museum of Modern Art offers respite from the heat and an antidote to blockbuster fatigue with Hot and Humid, a selection of summer gems pulled from the legendary institution’s archive by senior curator Laurence Kardish. A handful of lesser-known curiosities will screen alongside the likes of Jaws, Taxi Driver, Joseph Mankiewicz’s Suddenly, Last Summer, and Antonioni’s L’Avventura. Arriving in New York in 1966, Kardish cut his teeth placing Warhol, Kenneth Anger and Shirley Clarke films in cinemas before moving to MoMA. "Summer is a time of peril,” he says of the museum’s new series. “When it's hot and humid outside, passion leads to babies, bombs are dropped, tempers fray… In Godard's Weekend, an epic traffic jam ends up with people eating each other!" Over the phone from his lakeside cabin retreat in Maine, Kardish gave NOWNESS the rundown on his top-five heatwave classics.

Plein Soleil by Rene Clement, 1962
I love Plein Soleil's nastiness. It's a very creepy movie with the extraordinarily handsome Alain Delon. Based on Patricia Highsmith's book The Talented Mr. Ripley, it's a delicious French thriller about a wealthy American who is murdered, set in a millionaire's playground of yachts, alcohol and women. A truly international film, and it could be seen as a metaphor for European sophistication topping American naivety. 

Rashomon by Akira Kurosawa, 1950
At first glance not obviously a "summer movie," but according to its director Akira Kurosawa the famous "incident" in the grove happens at midsummer. A group of travelers talk about a bandit on trial for killing a samurai. Four different versions are recounted, all plausible but none compatible with the others. It's almost a metaphysical film, about the nature of truth.

Little Fugitive by Ray Ashley, Morris Engel and Ruth Orkin, 1953
This was one of the first American independent films. A young boy, Joey, who thinks he has killed his older brother, runs away from his Brooklyn neighborhood to Coney Island and becomes a "little fugitive," wandering around the arcades. According to Francois Truffaut it influenced his groundbreaking 400 Blows, which in turned kicked off the French New Wave.

The Gleiwitz Case by Gerhard Klein, 1961
Momentous historical events have taken place in the summer. The Second World War started at the beginning of September, so we're showing The Gleiwitz Case. Made in East Germany and a film very few people know, it is a recreation of the events at the outbreak of the war and the excuse the Nazis fabricated for their invasion of Poland. They said they invaded because the Poles raided a German-speaking radio station and killed some of the German staff. Which was a lie.

Summer With Monika by Ingmar Bergman, 1953
This never opened in the States. When it was first bought for American distribution, a company cut half an hour off it and called it Monika: The Story of a Bad Girl, pitching it as a sexploitation film. It's a story of lust in the Stockholm archipelago: during the summer months a young couple have a passionate affair, the woman becomes pregnant and it turns out by next spring they're locked in a domesticity they don't want. It is really advanced for its time––there's a reversal of the usual gender roles, because it's the woman who walks out on the man, leaving him with the child.

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